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Walter Paton MacCallum (1895–1959)

by Michael B. Tyquin

This article was published:

Walter Paton MacCallum (1895-1959), army medical officer, was born on 3 April 1895 in Sydney, youngest of four children of Scottish-born (Sir) Mungo William MacCallum, professor of modern language and literature at the University of Sydney, and his Hanoverian-born wife Dorette Margarethe, née Peters. Walter inherited from his parents a lively interest in literature. Educated at Sydney Grammar School (1908-13), he won the Greek medal, the (Sir Daniel) Cooper scholarship in classics and a university exhibition. He served in the cadets, captained boats and played in the First XI. Well built and six feet (183 cm) tall, he was school captain.

In 1914 MacCallum entered St Andrew's College, University of Sydney, and began an arts degree. On 5 May 1915 he was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force. Posted to the 20th Battalion, he saw action at Gallipoli (August-December) and on the Western Front (from March 1916). He was appointed a general staff officer, 3rd grade, at 2nd Division headquarters in October 1916. For his 'energy and initiative', especially during the advance towards Bapaume, France, in February 1917, he won the Military Cross. In September he became brigade major of the 5th Brigade. Gaining a reputation as a brilliant organizer, he was thrice mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his staff work in operations around the Somme from May to August 1918. That month he was promoted major. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in Australia on 30 April 1919.

Returning to the university, MacCallum switched to medicine (M.B., Ch.M., 1924). He held resident appointments at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children and the Coast Hospital before establishing his own practice at Edgecliff in 1926. On 9 June that year at St Peter's Anglican Church, Mount Victoria, he married Vida Agnes Rossell; they were to have four children. From 1920 he had either served in the Militia or been included in the general list of the Reserve of Officers; he did not transfer to the Australian Army Medical Corps Reserve until May 1933. He held teaching posts at the Royal Prince Alfred and the Royal Alexandra hospitals, became an honorary assistant-physician at the two institutions in the mid-1930s and rose to honorary consulting physician at both in 1955.

On 17 May 1940 MacCallum had joined the Australian Imperial Force. He embarked for the Middle East on 19 October as registrar of the 2nd/5th Australian General Hospital. In January 1941 he was appointed deputy assistant director of medical services, I Corps. After participating (March-April) in the campaigns in Greece and Crete, he was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel and placed in command of the A.A.M.C. Training Wing in Palestine. He was mentioned in dispatches for his work in the Middle East. In January 1942 he flew to Batavia and in the following month assisted in the evacuation of Sumatra as a member of the A.I.F. team. By March he was back in Australia.

Promoted temporary colonel, in April 1942 MacCallum was appointed deputy director general of medical services at General Headquarters, Melbourne. In August 1943 he was elevated to substantive colonel and temporary brigadier. He served with Advanced Allied Land Forces Headquarters at Hollandia, Netherlands New Guinea, and at Morotai, in 1944-45. His medical planning for the Australian operations in Borneo was rewarded when he was appointed C.B.E. (1947). MacCallum was placed on the Reserve of Officers on 8 March 1946. Having spent six months in London refreshing his clinical skills, he returned to Sydney where he built up a successful Macquarie Street practice as a consultant physician. He held numerous hospital appointments and was honorary physician (1946-50) to the governor-general.

MacCallum's courtesy and consideration made him popular with patients and nursing staff; renowned as a stickler for punctuality, he was, none the less, equally popular as a teacher of medical students. He was a fellow (1946), honorary secretary (1948-50, 1953 and 1958) and treasurer (1950-58) of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, a member (from 1956) of the New South Wales Medical Defence Council and vice-chairman of trustees of his old school. Survived by his wife, two sons and one of his daughters, he died of a coronary occlusion on 22 November 1959 at his Edgecliff home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1917, 1918 (Syd, 1933, 1942)
  • A. S. Walker, Middle East and Far East (Canb, 1953)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 30 July 1960, p 193.

Citation details

Michael B. Tyquin, 'MacCallum, Walter Paton (1895–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 April, 1895
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


22 November, 1959 (aged 64)
Edgecliff, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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